While hunting around for news on recent lese majeste arrests I stumbled on the Bangkok Post‘s effort from this week. Reporting the predicament of Akechai Hongkangwarn (who “was arrested in Bangkok”) the Bangkok-based newspaper re-printed an Agence France-Presse story.
When a story breaks in Cairo or Canberra or Kyoto I can see the need for press agency copy. The Bangkok Post can hardly be expected to have correspondents everywhere. But surely they have journalists in Bangkok to cover such stories? Did the Post opt not send a reporter to cover Akechai’s arrest? I note that other recent lese majeste cases have merited some local reporting. What is different about Akechai?
Yes, we all know that lese majeste prosecutions are sensitive but surely Bangkok Post journalists can take prime responsibility for reporting what happens in their home town. Of course, printing news agency copy on lese majeste might be seen as one way to help protect themselves.
Another option would be to get journalists out to all lese majeste arrests and trials, and to provide the world with original and detailed reports on exactly what happens. Reports like this one help to show the way. With appropriate diligence that is the kind of reporting that sells newspapers, wins awards, changes things. And, with skill, it just might mean that fewer people get locked up for lese majeste.
I can guarantee there would be no shortage of interested readers for that kind of journalism. Such reporting would be a tremendous service to Thailand and to everyone else who cares about the country’s future.